Categories: Cats in Art

Andrew Wyeth – Christina – Black Cat

Andrew Wyeth was an American realist painter famous for his painting “Christina’s World” (see below). The title was the idea of his wife Betsy James. She named all his paintings after their marriage as far as I know.

Christina Olson was the subject in the painting. She had polio and was disabled. She was crawling across the field. She was 55 when the work was created. Wyeth’s wife provided some of the modelling for the figure.

I had always thought (incorrectly) that the painting was of a youngish woman who lived an insular, poor life in the middle of the American countryside with her parents. That may have been the intended impression or perhaps Wyeth left it up to the viewer to create their own feelings. It is an extremely evocative and sad but beautiful painting (for me).

Wyeth knew Christina well and just for the record, she had a cat companion (as far as I can tell). Wyeth painted her black cat sitting on her chest. When I wrote this page I could not find that image but I did a little later and you can see Christina in the comments. On this page I reproduce a sketch made by Wyeth (that is still worth hundreds of thousands of dollars) of Christina’s Bedroom with her black cat on her bed. It was painted in 1947, one year before Christina’s World.

The house in the painting still stands and is a tourist attraction. It is called Olson House. I just think it is nice to find a connection between this iconic American painting and a cat.

Cats in Paintings.


Note: The website Astsy strives to make all of the world’s art accessible to anyone online. Their Andrew Wyeth page, for example, provides visitors with Wyeth’s bio, hi-res images of his art, exclusive articles, as well as up-to-date Wyeth exhibition listings. Visit it to read more about this great artist.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • Poor soul, but how brave to get herself around like that and not just give up and lie in bed all day. Nice that she had a little black cat for company, everyone needs a cat!

  • It makes me feel sad too, that poor crippled girl, but I think she would have had a lot of comfort from her cat, I'd have loved to see the painting you can't find.

    • I saw the painting on TV and it is of Christina in a chair with her cat on her chest. Christina was not a young women. She was a country lady in middle age. Her face was quite different to the one I had imagined. That is the power of imagination and I am sure it is one reason why Wyeth painted her with her face hidden.

        • Hi Dee, I have found the picture I am referring of Christina and her black kitten. I have added the painting to another comment below.

      • I have not been able to find it, Michael. It was not referenced in my books on the artist. Googleimages showed nothing (I searched through pages upon pages.) Maybe a fellow PoC'er can find it? I really want to find it, too. Glad that you at least got a glimpse. :) If you go to andrewwyeth.org you will find a beautiful description of his struggles and determination, summed up by, "He learned how to fight and finish a picture, for himself, beyond anything. "Wyeth has struggled with his art. There is nothing facile about it...Early in his career he was a proud protagonist of technique and a keen observer of and philosopher about the materials of painting. Today he argues convincingly that he doesn't "give a damn" about technique and sometimes tries to lay waste to it. When he finds a subject that he describes as 'almost perfect for me,' he is likely, these days, to walk away from it. It is not that he needs a contrived charge to move a jaded eye; it's more that at seventy-six years of age, he is still maturing creatively, willing to take even more risks than at any time in his career."

        Oh dear, TMI? I could go on and on with quotes from the page, but then I'm hoping that this will move some of you to visit and discover the pleasure that I did. please do read the bio on the homepage, it is filled with his [rare]intimate morsels that are so sweet, so endearing. I am so grateful to you for putting up this page, Michael!

        The same cat, I think, has been painted by him in a doorway at the Olson's?

        • Hi Cal. I saw the painting by Wyeth of Christina holding her black cat on her chest as she was sitting in a chair. I saw it on TV. It was an excellent TV programme presented by Michael Palin (Monty Python fame).

          Just could not find the painting on the internet. I am pleased Christina had a cat because her life did not look easy to me. Probably very hard.

        • I think Wyeth wanted that impression - the body (torso) of Christina is based on his wife's body who was an attractive, fit looking lady.

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